Church leaders discuss ways to build bridges with Muslims

by Emily Ralph

Muslim-Christian relations
Dr. Andrew Bush leads a conversation on building bridges between Christian and Muslim faiths. Photo by Emily Ralph.

Norristown, PA — “The greatest challenge the church is facing today is the rapid rise of Islam around the world.” It was a bold statement, but Dr. Andrew Bush, a missionary, church planter, and professor of missiology, believes that this challenge is one the church is called to engage.

“As representatives of Christ we stand at a historic hour in which we have the opportunity to show the true love of Jesus to the Muslim world,” said Bush at a workshop on improving Muslim-Christian relations held at Methacton Mennonite Church on May 5.   Bush is a professor at Eastern University in St. David’s, PA and attends Methacton Mennonite Church.

The growth of Islam is not just on foreign soil–Pennsylvania has one of the largest Muslim populations in the US.  Courtney Smith of Lansdale, Pa., noted that several of her neighbors were Muslim.  And that her ongoing conversations have at times left her unsure about the relationship between Islam and Christianity.  “Muslims insist that we worship the same God, the God of Abraham,” Bush responded.  But if that’s the case, “we have different understandings of God.”  Islam believes that Jesus was the world’s greatest prophet, next to Muhammad, but it rejects Christ’s divinity and crucifixion, believing instead that Jesus was taken up alive to God.

And that, Bush said excitedly, is where conversation can begin.  “Jesus is alive—we both agree on that.”

Jesus is highly respected in the Muslim faith as a teacher, moral leader, and even the Messiah.  The tragedy, in Bush’s view, is that in the rejection of the cross Muslims miss the victory of Christ’s work.  Considering the story Jesus told of the shepherd searching for his lost sheep, Bush pointed out, “Jesus is probably spending more time among Muslims than among us.”

Friendships with Muslims begin with the conversion of your own heart, according to Bush.  Those who want to build relationships must become students of Islam, learning to understand the faith as Muslims understand it.  Although the Bible also has verses that are hard to explain, Muslims are often harassed for portions of the Quran that Westerners consider offensive.  But keep an open mind, Bush encourages, because “you can’t judge a religion by its worst verse.”

Islam has already made up its mind about Jesus, so why should we care about building bridges? “It is the revelation of the love of Jesus that compels us,” responded Bush, a former missionary to Mexico and the Philippines.  “My concern is that Muslims hear the gospel of Jesus, see the gospel of Jesus. . . experience Jesus.”

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Listen to highlights from the May 5th breakfast with Dr. Andrew Bush:

 

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